The Disappearance of Frank Marshall, A Poem by Chris Russell

The children in the neighborhood had put on Godzilla masks and were headed this way. I ran out behind Frank Marshall’s shed and grabbed a rake. I returned to the street with the other neighbors. Frank’s wife, Marsha, was beginning to make woodpecker noises. “How long has she been like that?” I said. “For about 20 years now. Stressful situations tend to bring out her inner woodpecker. The psychiatrist says it probably has something to do with some unresolved or repressed incidents surrounding her ornithologist father,” he said. “Could it have been a bad experience with a field guide?” I said. “How dare you talk about my wife like that,” he said. Frank grabbed a rock from his pouch and scraped my forearm with it. He started going for the eyes. I blocked it with the rake. “That’s quite a rake you have there,” he said. I slapped him up side the face with it. “Is that all you got?” The children were almost upon us and I was sure they were partly responsible for us turning on each other. Rodan landed in front of Marsha and began making Rodan noises. Gamera was blowing fire at Frank then turning around just in time to block a rock with his shell, which looked like a pillow that had been colored with markers and duct-taped to little Willy’s back. “Make them stop,” Marsha said. But I didn’t think that was the way to go. There seemed to be a command framework to their behavior, and I knew to try to fight them would only make them stronger. I decided to take an egalitarian approach and pretend to be one of them. I put my arms up in the air and waved them back and forth like King Ghidorah, the three headed dragon. “Boys feel like making a model town out of egg cartons from Frank’s recycling bin and destroying it?” I said. They took off their masks, one after the other. Marsha calmed down. Frank stepped out of his Kangaroo suit, then led them around his crabapple tree and behind his shed. “No, this way Timmy, right over here, Willy. Don’t go that way. It’s quicker this way,” he said. He got behind them and pushed them, and they fell into the pit Frank dug. “We got them now,” he said. I jumped down into the pit with the boys. “Correction. You got us,” I said. Frank jumped down. Marsha jumped too. “You boys know any good stories?” I said. Willy started to say something, but his words began to appear in the dirt as he said them, and when I tried to read them out loud Marsha began to make really loud woodpecker noises. I couldn’t hear myself think. I started to make woodpecker noises until I could, which was when Willy began to speak in English, but I couldn’t understand how I could know that and not know what he was saying, so I decided to keep my mouth shut, only that didn’t work because the moment I chose to be quiet my voice came out of Marsha’s mouth. Then Marsha’s came out of Willy’s, Timmy’s came out of Frank’s, and Franks’ didn’t come out anywhere. At some point we’d buried him alive without realizing it. “Good work today, everybody,” I said. “Thanks, everybody, Marsha said. “Rodan and Gamera, much appreciated.” We made a ladder out of our bodies and helped ourselves out.

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